Asian markets higher on economic optimism

Asian markets higher on economic optimism

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Asian markets were higher on Thursday in a quiet post-Christmas holiday trading as strong economic data from the region and in the U.S. boosted confidence.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.2 percent to 22,945.67 and South Korea's Kospi gained 0.6 percent to 2,450.22. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index also rose 0.7 percent to 29,788.45. China's Shanghai Composite Index advanced 0.3 percent to 3,286.83. In Australia, S&P/ASX 200 added 0.2 percent to 6,075.00. Stocks in Taiwan, Singapore and other Southeast Asian countries were also higher.

ANALYST'S TAKE: "Recent strength in the U.S. economy was on display in the December Consumer Confidence Index released last night. Although it fell below the stellar readings of November and December, the trend remains strong," Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, said in a daily commentary. "This bodes well for a solid base to consumer spending in 2018."

US CONSUMERS: The Conference Board, a business research group, said Wednesday that its consumer confidence index dipped to 122.1 in December from a revised 128.6 in November. The reading shows consumers' expectations still remain at historically strong levels that hinted continued economic growth into 2018.

SOUTH KOREA: Government data showed that retail sales jumped 5.6 percent in November from the previous month, the highest jump in several years, while industrial output at Asia's fourth-largest economy rebounded last month.

WALL STREET: Most U.S. stocks markets finished with modest gains on Wednesday after another quiet trading. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 0.1 percent to 2,682.62. The Dow Jones industrial average added 0.1 percent to 24,774.30. The Nasdaq rose 0.04 percent to 6,939.34. But the Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks lost 0.02 percent to 1,543.94.

OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude added 14 cents to $59.78 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dropped 33 cents to settle at $59.64 a barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, gained 9 cents to $66.08 per barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar weakened to 113.16 yen from 113.23 yen. The euro strengthened to $1.1911 from $1.1897.

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